Tuesday, December 18, 2007

‘Tis the Season

I have been meaning to write a post on my views on religion for a while but have been putting it off because posts such these require thought and effort much beyond the random typing of a few words into Blogger and time has been something of a scarce commodity in these parts… It took The Mad Momma's gentle reminder that this would be a good time of the year write about this, DesiGirl's post on identity crisis and some free time in transit to and from Chennai that finally prodded me out of my inertia. So here goes…

Being of mixed parentage (Rajasthani dad, Tamilian mom with some Bengali roots thrown in for good measure) has never particularly bothered me and was in fact something that I felt quite proud of and felt it was part of my identity rather than a source for an identity crisis. But I wonder if Ayaan will feel the same way since I have gone and confused the whole thing even further by marrying a Goan Catholic. So he is going to have to attune himself to not just regional diversity but mixed messages from two very different religions as well. And if that were not enough, there is the further issue of both me and Jai not being very sure about the existence and extent of our belief in god and religion. So overall, it makes for a great hotpotch of a legacy.

If you know me in real life or have been reading this blog for a while, it would be pretty clear to you that I have a fairly rational bent of mind. And rationality does not mix well with unquestioning belief in anything and the same applies to my approach to religion. As a child and a teenager, I never really thought too much about it and just did as I was asked – mostly limited to stuff like participating in the annual Diwali pooja, folding my hands in prayer before an exam and abstaining from non-vegetarian food on certain days. I did this in the same unquestioning way that one responds to one’s parents' requests as a child – it wasn’t very different from gulping down two glasses of milk every day or doing my homework. It also involved no real thought or effort on my part.

Things changed when I moved away from home. When I set up my first home, my mom came and set up a little pooja shelf in the kitchen. And for the first Diwali after marriage, I attempted to recreate the Diwali ritual accompanied by detailed written instructions from my mom. But having to actually do everything on my own made me seriously question why I was doing it at all and pushed me to clarify my ambivalent attitude towards my faith or lack of it.

It’s a journey that I have yet to complete but one thing I do know for sure. I do not believe in god and prayer as they have been traditionally defined. I don’t believe that he (or she) has a face and a name or has ever actually lived a human life as an incarnation – therefore, a disbelief in idol worship. I know it makes our parents happy so we go to my mother’s place for Diwali every year and enthusiastically participate in the pooja as do we land up at the in-laws’ place for Christmas and attend midnight mass. But in my own home, I want to live my life as per what I believe in because it is too exhausting to do it any other way. So the aforementioned pooja shelf has been packed away (much to my mother’s consternation) because it felt hypocritical to have it up, dusty and neglected.

That being said, I am not a disbeliever of all things spiritual. This world we live in is far too miraculous and spectacular a place for it all to have been a simple coincidence. So while I don’t quite believe in god as a person, I do believe in the concept of a powerful force that exists both within us and in the world around us. I don’t yet have the clarity to understand and define what that force is – hopefully one day I will.

The other thing I still don’t have an answer to is whether prayer has any role in my life and if so, in what form. Traditional prayer largely revolves around praying to a well-defined entity and since I cannot define what the thing is, how can I pray to it. Secondly, prayer is about having a conversation with said entity and usually revolves around a request or a wish (from material stuff like more money to stuff like good heath and safety of the family) and my rational mind cannot accept that there is something out there that receives and considers every prayer that is sent out by all of humanity.

So anyway the bottom line to all this pointless meandering is that I am confused. And Jai is atleast one step behind where I am because he only knows that he doesn’t believe but hasn’t yet started thinking about what that really means. Now, if there was just the two of us to worry about, we would have merrily stumbled along without a care in the world. But like everything else, this too gets complicated when there is a child involved. And I worry about the mixed messages that Ayaan will get as he grows up.

When I was pregnant, my mom got the valaikaapu ceremony done; at the same time my mother-in-law gave me a statue of Mother Mary to keep nearby till my delivery. Ayaan has been baptised; he has also had a proper mundan ceremony. Every year, he will see Diwali being celebrated at my mom’s place and along with the fun side of getting new clothes and setting off firecrackers, he will sit down at a pooja and pray to gods like Ram and Lakshmi. Similarly at Christmas, there will be Santa Claus, Christmas trees and gifts but there will also be midnight mass where he will get to hear a sermon about Jesus Christ and Mother Mary. Plus, my mother-in-law is a staunch believer in Vipasana and is sure to talk to him about it as he gets older. And at the end of it all, he will come back to a home where none of this is practised.

I am struggling with how we can help him deal with this as he grows up. There are things that I am sure of:

  • I don’t want to pay lip service to organised religion just to make life simpler to Ayaan. Because I don’t want my conversations on something as big as this to be based on a lie. I also don’t want to spend the next 20 years till he grows up living a lie by pretending to believe in something that I don’t.
  • I don’t want to shut religion completely out of his life. Mostly because it would be impossible to do that – even if I could make the grandparents stop, he will soon grow up and be exposed to stuff at school, from his peers and from the media.
  • Festivals are an important part of growing up in India (or anywhere, I guess). And so I don’t want to cut them out of Ayaan’s life. While they do have their roots in religion, they are also about fun, festivity, tradition and family in a way that not many other things are and I do think they are an essential childhood experience, not to mention a rich source of happy childhood memories.
  • I don’t want him to be labelled as a Hindu or a Christian. He has a mixed parentage and that is something that I want him to aware and proud of as early as possible.
  • I don’t want to push my beliefs (if they can be called that at this nascent stage) down his throat. Because that would be the most counter-productive way of dealing with the issue and would probably only serve to push him away from whatever I was trying to indoctrinate into him.

And then there are things that I am not so sure of:

  • How important is religion in teaching children right from wrong? Stories and fables from the Bhagvad Gita and the Bible have been used over time to teach children lessons about the right ways to live and the consequences of not doing so. Also, the fear of god is used as a deterrent to bad behaviour and immorality. If you inherently believe that there is someone up there who maintains a system of checks and balances, would you not be less likely to be dishonest, corrupt or evil?
  • What will I tell him when he asks me who or what god is?
  • How will I celebrate the festivals I mentioned above on the occasions when it isn’t possible for us to visit the grandparents, or after they have passed on?
  • How will I explain the inherent contradictions between all the belief systems that he will be exposed to in a manner that will appeal to him intellectually and emotionally?
  • How will I inculcate in him the tolerance for other beliefs that are not his own?
  • Most importantly, how will I help Ayaan stitch together these diverse jigsaw pieces of his parents’ histories and beliefs to evolve his own system of faith?

In the end, there are lots of questions and not many answers. And I am not sure that I ever will have all the answers. Needless to say, this sometimes keeps me awake at night.

43 comments:

  1. we're in the same boat Ro. I wish I had answers. We both seem to be doing the same thing and I am hoping that other than trusting this instinct which makes us do what we do.. there is also the old cliche of safety in numbers. if we're both doing it instinctively.. there's got to be something right.. right?! fingers crossed.

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  2. We should sit down and have a little chat Ro, been there done that. You, me and MM. All in the same boat. The brat is now being exposed to every religion, including Christianity (from my mother) and whatever little of Islam I can remember or read up (from my fathers side) and Hinduism, from his father and dadi. (my late pa in law was in the RSS). But he is being brought up as a Hindu primarily, because I have gone through a severe identity crisis trying to fit in, being brought up by my parents without a particular religion. I dont know whether I am doing the right thing, but I do know that I want him to fit in, and not feel the odd one out everywhere like I did. I guess none of us will ever have any answers to this one...did a post on this, will send you the link.
    Sorry for hogging your space.

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  3. Here's the link http://karmickids.blogspot.com/2007/04/on-religion.html

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  4. Nice written piece. As long as Ayaan is meeting people who speak the same language that he does, he should be okay I guess.
    And Chennai brought this on? :)

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  5. Almost a mirror of my own thoughts on religion and parenting ... although of course, you have the added complexity of multiple religions to deal with. There certainly are no easy answers, but I find my father's advice comforting (he emailed me after reading my post on religion and I posted it on my blog)

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  6. [Mad Momma] Humph... and here I thought you would give me some pearls of wisdom... The safety in numbers is comforting though :)

    [Kiran] I guess we all end up parenting according to our own experiences. I reveled in my multicultural heritage and am still quite proud of it. I liked being different... hope Ayaan feels the same. Thanks for the link. I think I read that already.

    [Primalsoup] Well, he currently speaks and is spoken to in English, Hindi and Marathi - so there's another layer of mixed messages there! And Chennai could have been Lucknow - it was the airport and flight time that gave me the pace to write :)

    [Moppet's Mom] Ya, I remember reading your post. Let's see what my mom has to say about this :)

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  7. I think it has something to do with the contradictions we grow up in - where we are expected to be rational and religious - one of the two has to be compromised in order to lead a sane life.
    I have no mixed heritage or any children of my own - and yet I struggle with this balancing act..
    Good luck to you!

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  8. Are you shifting to Bangalore? And do let me know next time you're in Chennai.

    About the religion, I cant really help you out cos I was born and brought up in a christian house (although my parents - mainly my dad was not religious - infact i think he dislikes religious practices) and now I have also married a christian (purely by coincidence) and so I dont need to explain other religions to Karan, and can leave to him read about them on his own when he grows up. K and I pray to God everyday, more as a ritual and special thing we do together. I will leave him to make up his own mind about his beliefs/disbeliefs when he can think about and rationalise about them. As for now, we stick to the prayers and attend masses when we are at Robi's place where his parents are very religious! (p.s. sorry for the long comment)

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  9. Let's talk about the first half of your post, i.e. the existence of a named God.

    I had(ve) similar issues as you do but here are somethings to think about.
    You say you believe in the higher force yet don't believe in idols. Why? Is not an idol a manifestation of that sprituality, one that was created to make our lives simpler? That is, it certainly is easier to pray to a God with a name than an unnamed spiritual force.

    I've been thinking a lot about my faith in God, and recently I've been thinking that rationality and all that is fine, but why do I need proof for everything? Why do I need proof that Rama walked this earth?

    If I believe that God exists in some form, then why not pick a form most comfortable to me and worship that form? That could be Jesus Christ, or Rama, or Ganesha or Ayyappa. It's just a manifestation of that spirituality right?

    I never did believe that much in prayer too, but now that I spend a 5 minutes praying everyday (meditation more like) I find I can bear the challenges of my daily life more. And what better place to do it than in a specific prayer room that has been set aside for that purpose? It is certainly more conducive that way.

    Not trying to shovel my beliefs down your throat here, just somethings that I've been working on recently.

    Second, I don't have too many answers about the mixed message thing because the hubby and I are from not only the same religion but also community, so no issues there.

    However something you might want to think about is that although your parents are from different regions, that is still less of a mixed identity than being of mixed religion.

    I'm not critical at ALL of the way you choose to bring up Ayaan, I think you're doing a wonderful job.. These are just my thoughts, typed out as I think.

    I am NOT going to apologise for the long comment, where else will I post my views ? :)

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  11. Rohini....u spoke my mind.......me and M also belong to diff religions......i am not a strong believer in religion and he happens to be very religious and also superstitious, plus i have issues listening to watever his parents suggest..it is majorly because of our history.....all these things really really tear me and i hope A wont suffer because of all this. i will write about my situation some day.

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  12. [Shoe] Yeah, I always wonder how some of the most rational people I know are also the most religious... I guess they are more capable of compartmentalising various aspects of their lives and treating them differently.

    [Lawyeramma] It was one of those hectic morning-evening trips so it didn't make sense - will tell you when I come across next (probably some time in January or February). And no, I am just coming to Bangalore for Christmas - no plans to move from Mumbai just yet.

    [Poppins] You make some pretty good points but like I said unquestioning belief has never been my strong suit. And I find it hard to credibly pray to a god that I know is most likely either the figment of a gifted storyteller's imagination or an exaggerated avatar of some mere mortal who existed centuries ago...

    Also I know Ayaan's situation is a lot more complex than mine... that's what has me worried. But I am sure the solution lies in blocking one or more of the influences...

    And on your last comment - get a blog, woman! Oh wait, you already have one... ;-)

    [Jayashri] Look forward to reading your post on this...

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  13. Rohini,
    Whilst I am no closer to sorting my identity crises, I do know it is thanks in equal parts to my need to belong, to fit tidily into a slot and the fact that my parents never actually made it work for me by saying 'look this is what we are and these things work for us'. The fact that you are mulling over how to help Ayaan deal with his own issues tells me that at least he won't be saddled with his own personal baggages and can look to your rational self for guidance.

    With Pratik I am still feeling my way based on blind luck. At the mo, he is of the belief that Krishna and Jesus are cavorting in Heaven, having a whale of a time playing catch! Who am I to dissuade him?? (MM might probably bean me over my head for it tho'!)

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  14. Rohini - can relate to your views - some of them similar to mine - about a higher power and not sure of God in the traditional way it is thought of...Interesting (on a lighter note) to see you had a valaikappu ceremony! :) Somehow didn't think you had any Tamilian roots in you! So was surprised!
    I think the best way to raise your child is in a way that you* are comfortable with - if you find this comfortable, you can explain it and go with it easily (like if Karmic finds it most comfortable to raise her child a Hindu, that will be the best way). I strongly feel parents have to be comfortable with what they believe in and be sure of what they believe in or feel ambivalent about and be honest about it as and when the child understands...I think a mixed identity is nice...and am sure more and more kids in this generation are of mixed identity. I can't imagine there will too much confusion because there will be strength in numbers. Just the Indian kids growing up here now have a seperate identity all on their own - they all relate to each other well at that level.
    Nice post btw.

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  15. Sharmila10:18 am

    Hi,
    I found your blog on religion quite thought provoking-although I think you should just let the little fellow be for now-as in let him pray to whoever he thinks is Goddy (my 6 yr old calls him that).And when he is much wiser let him decide for himself-like all other new things he may confront as he grows.
    Don't lose sleep over this as you really won't come up with some fool-proof conclusion anyhow.You really can't decide for him if you want him to think out things for himself,right ?
    Let things be and go with the flow.

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  16. I am most like you but I also feel sometimes just going inside the pooja room and letting off all my emotions helps handle a stressful day. Ours is a mixed marriage but only from different languages so I don't think Abi will have much problems but she does see 2 styles at home, me not praying, not very spiritual and her dad who prays daily, performs elaborate poojas on weekends and holidays. So for now she thinks Moms don't pray [or need to] LOL.
    I also feel having some spiritual understanding gives more mental strength. From what I read, I don't think you are confusing Ayaan because children expect us to practise what we preach and when you don't believe in something you cannot just do it. so you are correct in packing that pooja shelf. Children don't need to see value in Gods. You only need another belief when things are insecure.

    On a lighter note, I was wondering all the while how you have a Tamil name and now I know :).

    BTW, do let me know the next time you visit chennai.

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  17. Ro, very neatly put with such an articulation that I admire your writing even more now :)

    I do not have a religious identity issue for Kaju but she sure does have language crisis at home….what with Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Punjabi and Bengali spoken at length in your immediate family? And I come from a family that was speaking Sanskrit (yeah Sanskrit) just 2 generations before and now speaking Tamil as a first language….we are confusing Kaju right from the word Go…. So I can understand what you are going through…but I know the religious confusions are more tough to sort out…but here’s what it is….i grew up in a large orthodox tambram family…we were all asked to worship such and such deity for such and such festival. But while growing up I realized that I frequent to churches more often than going to temples. Have been to dargah quite sometimes when the temple was almost right next door….not that parents objected it though it was a taboo for my mom.. My dad was always open to openness and fairness when it comes to beliefs and customs….i go to all sorts of temples coz I get this lightness in my soul and mind that I can not explain…there is peace in me when I visit temples of all god…

    Mr on the other hand is not religious and is not even spiritual….i wouldn’t call him an atheist too coz he is ok if I pull him to go to temple…so there….that is one big confusion that am yet to sort out myself…now with this thing am pretty sure kaju will have her own mind and that she is already an independent thinker I know nothing will influence her way of thinking nor her actions…so am not going to bother too much about it now…but yes , I will provide her with ever it takes to celebrate the functions…mite be not with the great zeal and enthusiasm that her religious grandmom has to offer…but in a very quite unassuming way that her mother could….without the presence of her dad..so that is going to confuse her more but I have no other option but to tell her that this is how it is….at a time when she can understand stuff….

    of all the questions you have asked yourself Ro,the one question that is extremely valid is how he is going to be tolerant to other beliefs..in this bad wide world...our kids need more and more tolerance....than the ones exhibited by guatama buddha or jesus or gandhi...oh god! am i meaning that our kids are almost like gods? yes :) they should be when they grow up...coz tolerance is what differentiated the above mentioned from the rest of us.....and our kids need to learn it the most than any other thing....
    Oh! Am I confused or what?;))

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  18. There was a lot of heart-rending honesty in that post, Rohini. It is good to see you asking those questions. The question is, are you doing anything but ask? Is your rational mind doing any research to see if there is a religion, if any, that has anything worth believing in?

    How exciting that you refuse to believe something just because someone told you that you should. One of the truths of the Bible is "Seek, and you will find. Ask, and it will be given unto you. Knock, and the door will be opened unto you." You can see this in action all around you. My prayer for you is that, for the sake of yourself, your husband, and your child(ren), you discover the truth you seek soon.

    Bless you. Hugs to you.

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  19. [Desigirl] Krishna and Jesus playing catch in heaven...LOL!

    [Noon] Thanks for that comforting comment. As for the Tamilian roots, they are fairly latent... being brought up entirely in the North... I do have a thaali instead of a mangalsutra though

    [Sharmila] Definitely no plans to impose any of these on him any time soon... at playschool, he has been taught this prayer to God and the other day when I was saying it with him, he came and physically put my hands together into a folded position... the kid might just convert me :)

    [Kowsalya] I don't think my mom thought of it as a Tamil name though... she says she just likes the sound of it... and I agree a bout prayer being a very relaxing, healing process... just need to figure out what kind of prayer works for me...

    [IBH] No, that sounded pretty sorted out to me - not confused at all...

    [Talena] That's a very good question... and I am going to have to disappoint you with a no on that one. I have really started asking myself these questions in the last one year - though I have been talking a lot with friends who believe in alternate religions...

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  20. This deserves a post, not a comment. But I'll leave you with this thought -- V and I both come from all Bengali backgrounds, even our damn castes are compatible. But I'm still not sure what to teach our son. Vicky was taught to do Puja but he never does. I was never taught but I enjoy the rituals. Neither of us maintains a prayer space but we do have a little space cleared out on a cupboard top for idols we have been gifted.

    It's just that within ourselves we seemed to be very clear as who and what our god(s) is/are. Trust The Bhablet to complicate even that!

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  21. i beleive in the karma theory - what happens to you is a result of what you did at some point types. the rest of the stuff - rituals etc are all there for a reason i think - some i understand, some i dont.

    i am a jain and it is a sort of an atheist religion - in the sense there is a supreme point but that is something every one of us is capable of achieving. 'god' is one of those souls who has achieved control over karma and so we pray to him/her more as a source of inspiration than as someone who will actually change things for us. the entire focus is on achieving control over your thoughts etc and there is a lot of meditation and self-reflection involved.

    i have been teaching this to my kids - of course in a way they comprehend. as they get older what i tell them gets/will get more and more complex.

    when i was in labour i found i could sort of control my mind and focus away from the pain towards what i was used to while meditating during the rituals - managed without any pain relief both times. the reason i mention this because since i left home at 16, i havent done much of the rituals and most of the stuff i mention was done before that as a child. i was surprised i could still harness that to control my thoughts.

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  22. very thought-provoking post! As lawyeramma says-we (her parents) are both officially Christians and they were brought up in the midst of it. But I always had the same problems (of what to tell my children) as so many of you young mothers have mentioned, as i just could not believe in all the rituals. Well my children have now grown up and have their own ideas about religion. But even now there are times when I wonder whether I should have done something differently!

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  23. Maybe its just the belief in the One Above that could help him focus his prayers on. The constant reminder that God is one no matter what religion you follow could really be applied here. Enter any religious place of worship while he's there to offer his prayers. If he wants to walk the extra mile to visit a church, temple or any other place, he could. Not many yuppies in this world really follow any religion. if urbanised craziness is a religion, then all the metrosexuals are true believers in it. which is where most of the youth is headed to anyways.

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  24. this post touched a chord because in general explaining a concept as complicated as God and organized religion is hard enough without having the mix of religions to make it even harder.
    and religion today isn't as important as it used to be. in helping discpline or even finding roots.
    i hope this gets easier for you and you're able to sort out your thoughts on it.
    hang tight!

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  25. [Sue] I would consider myself quite sorted out on the issue if I didn't my son to explain it all to...

    [Choxbox] Wow! That sounds really awesome. There is something quite appealing to me about the concept of meditation but I always thought of it as retreating into your inner self to find peace and maybe answers rather than communing with a higher being.

    [Hillgrandmom] I guess there no getting away from self-doubt as a parent... :)

    [RT] Definitely plan to do that - he has already been to many temples and churches...

    [Mona] I hope so too. Thanks :)

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  26. Hm, I will not pretend to offer tips on what you must be going through with this issue on an existential level (only because I'm muddled myself), but I do understand how this might bother you.

    I'm at the point where I still haven't sorted out what I believe in if I believe in anything, that is. At least you've got that figured out, for the most part.

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  27. Y'know, read this post of yours and was amazed at how accurately you've put down my beliefs (or lack of them) on paper. :)

    I've never managed to straighten things out in my head this much - usually, it's a just a jumble of confused thoughts and beliefs.

    I know that I don't believe in god or in any religion, though I grew up celebrating every festival with equal fervour (with the exception of Diwali maybe, which was bigger) - but since our marriage and having a house of my own, I've struggled with similar thoughts on every festival. And wondered about how it'll be when we have kids.

    Oh, and you really should write more often. :)

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  28. I wonder if it needs to be this complicated/ complex....my cousins are all of mixed region and religious parentage(irish christian,sikh,etc) - they have a healthy regard for all sides and types but are their own little people and have a "dinillahi/ bahai" kind of approach to religion

    on the other posts - that sounds like a fun get together you mUmbai moms had and YEAH! to Ayaan's athlectic prowess

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  29. the way it works is that you focus on this one point (in my case the idol of god), because when you are at the point where you havent yet achieved control over your thoughts, you need a physical object to focus upon. the highre being or god is chosen as the point because he/she has achieved what i am seeking to. thats how the god/nigher being bit and self-reflection/meditation are linked.

    what i am trying to say is that i think that is what i'd like my kids to learn - being spiritual as opposed to merely doing rituals without understanding their point. to achieve that intangible, at the initial stage one does require tangibles - thats where temples and prayers and also rituals (with at least an attempt to get to bottom of them) come in.

    (hey sorry for hogging so much space plus for the fcat that i am perhaps on a tangent, but really as i read a lot of posts i feel like i've been through it too!)

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  30. The dilemmas we go through and you are not alone. I and i am sure all of us in our generation have had the same questions and limited answers. Life would have been so easy if we had so much blind faith, just like my mom, my mil, etc but we are supposedly thinking beings and what we cannot see or feel or perceive, we cannot ascribe to. But recently i have had a tremendous change of heart. I did not believe in asking God things as i believed if he knew so much, he would know what to give me to and if destiny was predestined, then what is the use of asking ?. Anyway I happened to read the Secret by Rhonda Byrne and i guess the universe, the cosmos everything just aligned with me when i was listening to it, that i have had an upheaval of my beliefs or nonbeliefs or just wandering through life. She says ask what you want and the universe will give it to you. Be postive, and think eat and live and breathe what you want and that will be yours. Suddenly the prayers and everything the so-called religious people were doing made perfect sense. They were sending out signals to the universe that this is what their heart desired and subconsciously they were talking to themselves about what they want and moving towards that thing in unknown ways. Suddenly when mil said i prayed to pulayar and 'avan yennai kai vidamattar' made perfect sense cuz everyday she went and prayed for a certain thing to happen in her life. The Vaibavalakshmi pujas to bring in wealth to your families just made so much sense, cuz Rhonda says ask and you shall be given. Live with the most positive attitude you can have. And havent we all read those chain emails where this jerry guy is such an optimist, he gets shot down and when the doctors gave up hope, he miraculously lived, cuz that is what he wanted. !! So praying is wanting and sending out positive energy and vibrations into the universe. Maybe i was at a point in my life where i wanted to hear it from Rhonda, someone from a not-so-religious point of view but rather a scientific view. It made sense to me. Am i practising it as much as i would like to ? no, but i do want to. She has some really nice things to say that we all can just apply and i was thinking it must be really easy for me to just think positively but it has been a challenge to alter the way i think only in terms of positivity... And all i really wanted to say was this post has been so well written, has taken care of all the points, very well laid out. Thank you for the post. It was a pleasure reading it.

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  31. This is a very well planned out post, Rohini! I don't know if I would be able to put all my thoughts about this in a streamlined way like this.

    I have thought about my faith (or the lack of it like u put it) for a long time and read up on comparative religions before i decided where i stand - I am an athiest. i not only not believe in God, i actually believe that he/she/it does not exist.

    Ofcourse, not having a kid to worry about lets me put off the second part for a while now. but i do agree that u cant cut out diwali and holi and christmas from any child's life! these festivals r more about fun and celebration than faith and prayer really :-)

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  32. Hmm. To really find out what a religion is about, it is best to go to the source--people will usually misrepresent their religion to some degree, because they have all of their own interpretations of what they think their religion is supposed to be about. Read the Koran, read the Bible, read whatever source book you can read--check it against archaeological evidence dug up that supports the things these books claim. This is a lot of work, so sometimes people have done some of the work for you.

    If you choose to check a little deeper into Christianity, I recommend starting with the New Testament (back third of the book) in the book of John. Choose a translation that is easy to read, but not a paraphrase, such as New International Version or New American Standard Bible. A good commentary on how the New Testament fits in archaeologically and how the gospels fit in with each other is called The Case For Christ by Lee Strobel.

    While I know a few real Christians in the Roman Catholic church, they are few and far between. Many of them are more caught up in the trappings of their religion than in the relationship (with God) that it is supposed to be about. With no offense to your in-laws, please do not take the Catholic representation of Christianity as the only one. Check it out for yourself.

    Happy New Year, you! And also Jay and Ayaan! Kiss the wee one for me! (Although I imagine it won't be at midnight--you could give it to him in advance! :-D)

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  33. Hi Rohini, my two cents for what it's worth :

    As the offspring of mixed parentage (konkani catholic dad and tamil iyer mom) both of whom are deeply religious , I can in all honesty say that it used to get pretty darn confusing.

    Both my parents tried very hard and managed to maintain their own distinct identity , while respecting each other's and conveying to their children a sense of faith in god rather than indicating a particular religion to follow or not.

    For example, I was baptized when I was born, (probably a little to do with pressure from my dad's folks early who were still reeling from his choice of a partner..) but when my brother was born he realised that it was really not fair to my mother to insist that her own faith be disregarded, so my brother wasn't. My parents tried very hard not to impose one view and tried to show us as much of the commonality in the religions as it was possible. To the extent that they spent a lot of time talking to us, as were growing up about philosophy and religion and how to take the best out of both the worlds I was exposed to and most importantly how to be proud of the fact that we were being raised, as a result of our unusual situation, as very tolerant, open minded people.

    For my own part, I do believe in a god. I look at christianity and am able to see it in context and hinduism too. Since the contradictions were a large part of my faith, I learnt to focus on god as some higher entity rather than a name and a face, with a whole bunch of prayers and traditions attached.. However, I learnt rather early , to compartmentalize my faith in god, simply because I can't often explain it, and keep it separate from what i try normally to be : Logical , Rational and if I can manage it , Scientific. And since i cannot support my faith with hard cold logic and fact , i just leave it at that and put it down as something that works for me, of which i have no real understanding yet. My brother on the other hand is quite agnostic.

    I don't think it really matters as long as you can manage to convey to your child a sense of respect and open-mindedness, so that he can really make a choice as he grows up. I suppose it's made easier if neither of you are particularly religious.

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  34. Swinging by to wish you, Ayaan & Jai a merry xmas and a great new year.
    RM is kinda in the same boat, stradding two different religions. I hope she grows up with a healthy regard for all religions. And I plan to let her choose what religion she wants to follow when she's able to make that choice.

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  35. This touched a chord in me. My kids are all mixed up too - north and south, hindu and muslim - and it's a little harder to decide what and how to teach them. On the birth certificate, there is actually a space for religion - and A and I filled humanism. While I don't believe in or follow rituals, I somehow feel it is important for the kids to know and follow them as kids so they can make more informed decisions as adults - to be or not to be...

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  36. There's something for you at my blog.

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  37. Ro...I read this post of yours soon after you published it. Somehow, didn't leave a comment at the time. Perhaps if I had it would have been longer than what it is now.

    I just wanted to give you an upshot of my thoughts at that time, which is that I agree with you. He he...pretty basic huh. yes, it is. But I do. I understand your thoughts and I like whatever thoughts of God you have right now.

    May I just offer one little gem that is altering the course of my life...its called Discourses by Meher Baba. Do not let the name fool you. It is not a religious piece of work in the least and is very very clinical and scientific, which is why I understood is so well.

    Interestingly enuff the first time I read a few words from this book, I was put off because eveyrthing sounded so complicated and hi-fi. How foolish I was!

    I gave it a chance again after several months and things are as clear as crystal. For the most part anyway. There is beauty in this book, the kind that might appeal to you as well. I hope you will give it a chance.

    -Recommended by someone who also read teh entire series of Harry Potter after reading the last book, just like you! :D

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  38. [Megha] I was happy enough with that you’ve got gong till Ayaan came along. Now I feel I need to figure it out for his sake.

    [Threedrinksahead] The pressure to sort to it all out will happen with the kid/s. And I know I should post more often…if only the day had 30 hours :(

    [Artnavy] Making simple things complicated is a special skill I possess unfortunately...

    [Choxbox] Overall, the concept of spirituality is much more appealing to me than organised religion or rituals...

    [Taamommy] I have been planning to read that book... let me check it out.

    [Sudha] I veered towards atheism as well but I find it hard to believe that everything works so beautifully without anything being in some sort of control of it.

    [Talena] I am not sure that I will find my answer in any of the traditional religions – Christianity, Islam, Hinduism because the basic concepts they are based on don’t appeal to the way I think…

    [Mercury] Thanks for taking the time to give me a glimpse of your experiences with religion. I think the experience with you and your brother shows that your parents exposed you guys to everything and left it up to you to make your own, different choices. I think that is awesome – I hope I can achieve that.

    [Aqua] Happy New Year and hope you all had yourself a merry Christmas. Your approach sounds really sensible

    [Bird’s Eye View] Sounds familiar… I left the religion space on the birth certificate blank.

    [Sue] Coming across to check it out in a bit… so much blog reading to catch up on, so little time :(

    [Tharini] The book you mentioned sounds like a good place to start my journey. Will check it out.

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  39. Hi Rohini.. This is my first time here.. and I must say this has been a very interesting read!! Your post is very lucid and rational.. I am sure Ayaan will grow up to be fine .. and this might be very enriching with all the exposure he is getting... Give him access and exposure to both and as he grows he will be able to tie them together and balance the differences!!!

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  40. as parents there are 10,000 things happening in the NOW that you are already worried out. don't worry abt this stuff too much... as someone whose parents are 100% bengali hindus, I still had issues coming to terms with my religious identity. I questioned, rebelled and eventually had my own spiritual awakening down the road... compare this to a friend of mine whose mother is Pakistani half-Muslim half-Christian and Indian father who is a non-believer (my friend proudly calls himself "a mixed up mongrel" because of his geographical roots and not his religious non-affiliations!), I think we had it pretty good :) and so will Ayaan!!

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  41. Something for you on my blog

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  42. I am not sure if you will get to read my comment after a trillion other opinions, but I couldn't resist adding my thoughts.

    First off, I think prayers, temples, churches etc. are a source of comfort in life later on. I am not religious and my belief in God is shaky. But now, when I think of my life and future, in moments of doubt, a slokam or a keerthanam or a visit to a temple or even the smell of vibhuti calms me and brings back the comfort of childhood and reiterates my confidence.

    I rest my case.

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  43. Everything OK? Been a long time...

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